Winds of Change Blowing in the LCK... the Spring Champions, SKT T1 Struggling This Split

Griffin, Kingzone, SANDBOX, and Afreeca are the top 4 teams in the standings for this LCK Summer. These teams' playstyle has a lot in common. They are using diverse champions and strategies during picks & bans. It's not that the players only have a broad champion pool but they have a deep understanding of the key meta picks and the understanding on those champs are deep enough to make it a threatening flex-pick during picks & bans. 

One of the universal rules in the LCK has been to avoid fighting when the team is outnumbered. However, this is no longer a valid rule for the top teams in the current Korean LoL scene. They play their macro game on a faster way compared to the past and Rift Objectives that were sometimes neglected if it doesn't have a direct connection to winning the game, are now never actually neglected at all. If they believe that they can win a teamfight, no matter the circumstances, they are now putting up that fight. 

Champions such as Ornn, Jarvan, Lissandra are champions that can offer clear initiators for a teamfight. However, these champions are thought of as 'one-dimensional'. Now there are numerous ways of starting a teamfight. They use Glacial Augment on a champion or sometimes build Twin Shadows for slowing down the opponent.  And, if the opponent gets slowed in any kind of way, a fight occurs. The teams have acknowledged that it is more important to know when and how they should engage for a teamfight. 



If a skill lands well, even though the team is outnumbered or being hit by the Baron, they jump in right away. On the 15th of June (KST), Afreeca Freecs and Kingzone DragonX proved that a matchup between two teams that knows how to play the current meta can make this game so fun and interesting to watch. One of the highlights of this match happened near the 14-minute mark in game 1. The two teams fought near the Rift Herald and this teamfight ended after a whole minute.

Showing aggressiveness inside the game and having the courage to put up a fight was something that was in this meta for an entire year. Kingzone and Afreeca are teams that have experienced what foreign teams are capable of in international stages. After learning from their harsh experiences, now they are finally starting to utilize that playstyle. 

▲ G2's draft in the LEC... now teams in the LCK are starting to use some new champs in their draft.

Although SANDBOX is a team that scores lower kills per game than Kingzone and Afreeca, their average game time is one of the fastest in the LCK. Even if they are on a disadvantage, they still know how to quickly transition defense to attack. One of the examples can be seen during the SANDBOX versus SKT matchup game 2. Near the 19 minute mark, when three of SKT's players were destroying SANDBOX's mid-tier 1 turret, Ghost's Sona and Joker's Tahm Kench manages to kill Teddy's Sivir and made the opponent completely fall back from that attack. 

SKT are now one of the bottom teams in the standings with a 1W - 3L record. Although they are using numerous picks, they do not have their own special card that can threaten the opponent. The opponents know that if they ban ganking junglers, they can limit SKT's macro game.  

Kingzone uses Aatrox as a top-jungle-mid flex pick. Teams are using Glacial Augment Neeko in top and mid lane. However, these surprise picks aren't used by SKT. They've never actually tried out Sona, one of the up and coming picks in the bottom lane. Using Ryze in mid and top lane is probably a single flex pick that SKT uses. Watching the current performances on the two players, to be honest, Ryze doesn't seem like a big threat on either of them. 

Faker and Khan, the key players for SKT, are having a hard time recovering their Spring Split shape. Most notably, Faker has been making mistakes that can impact the game as a whole. He sometimes over-focuses on collecting CS and lane management that he forgets when to push through waves and to join for a fight. He makes basic mechanical mistakes as well.

Another problem for SKT is that their main win strategy hasn't changed. Their playmaker, Clid has to lead the team to snowball in the early game. Then their main dealers scale up and carry the late game.  Although SKT failed to win using the 'Teddy late game carry' strategy in the MSI, this still remains as their winning strategy for Summer. 

▲ The two junglers for SKT, Clid-Haru

This does not mean that SKT's macro game is not a viable way for victory. However, the win rate on that strategy is becoming significantly lower in this meta. Clid and Haru are like a jet. The two junglers are not a 'control tower' that checks for possible threats in the map and alerts the team's main carries like Bengi once was. It's not easy for the junglers as well as the other roles to get full vision in the map these days and they have to eventually focus on using their mechanics and instincts. This is why teams are so vulnerable to ambushes since it's difficult to catch every move that the opponent makes. 

The current meta is much more complex especially in the early game with all the Rift Objective and Turret Plating changes. You can no longer win if you just safely play your own game. Every team makes mistakes in this meta, and now to win a LoL game, it seems better to take advantage of the opponent's mistakes than to fix your own mistakes. 

SKT do have some breathing space since they were the champions of the Spring Split. Another positive factor is that some of the players, especially Faker, is trying out numerous champions regardless of the results. Also, the individual stats of the players seem rather high regarding their current standings in the LCK. However, SKT has lost 3 series at the beginning of this Summer and for sure, this is something that cannot be overlooked.

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